Classrooms have been prepared for the return of students next week at John MacNeil Elementary School in Dartmouth, N.S. on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Millions more Canadian students will head back to school today as officials across four provinces work to keep classrooms safe from COVID-19 and the threat of Omicron-driven staff shortages. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Students in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia return to school amid Omicron

Millions more Canadian students will head back to school today as officials across four provinces work to keep classrooms safe from COVID-19 and the threat of Omicron-driven staff shortages.

Students in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are returning to class after starting the New Year online because of record-high case counts.

The provinces said the return to remote learning was intended to take pressure off the health-care system and give schools more time to improve safety measures.

Deploying rapid antigen tests and upgrading air quality in schools are among the stjeps governments say they’ve taken ahead of the return to class, with some of the work still underway.

Still, some parents and teachers’ unions are voicing concerns that those efforts won’t be enough to keep classrooms safe and ensure there’s enough staff available to keep schools operating.

Officials and school boards have told parents there are contingency plans in place, but to expect potential shifts back to online learning if the virus’s spread forces enough people into isolation.